But the Sunset is Behind You

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Sunset Shining On The Basilica San Marco, Venice, Italy

Haven’t you seen enough sunrise and sunset photographs?

I think photographers are looking the wrong way when they photograph the sky filled with vividly-colored clouds or a bright orange (smoggy) glowing sky. Besides, how many of these do we need?

To me taking a photo of the rising or setting sun is like looking directly into the beam of  a flashlight instead of seeing what the flashlight is shining on. The light source is not the interesting part of the scene.

With landscape and street photography you don’t control what is highlighted by the sun (or even street lighting), but it is interesting to move with the changing light and show how things change.

The early morning and late afternoon light are a photographer’s natural tools. They provide interesting shadows that highlight features. The color of the light shifts as it passes through the lower atmosphere. These are well-established rules of thumb.

That low-angle sun spotlights features that are washed out at mid-day. The orange light of a sunset reflects off of landscapes and buildings. I try to keep sunsets and sunrises behind me to see what is highlighted by them.

That is certainly not an innovative idea. But whenever I see another sunrise or sunset photo I wonder what the scene behind the photographer looked like.

This photograph of the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy glows with the low-angle light of a setting sun. The sun reflects strongly off of the metallic ornamentation. I know that the sun lowering over the Grand Canal behind me might have been photogenic also, but it just seemed like taking a picture of a light bulb. There are times when I am drawn to backlit scenes, but the elements in the foreground are the main reason on those occasions.

This photograph of the Basilica San Marco will be one of the photos in an exhibition in Libation (on the Plaza) in Arcata, California during April, 2011. The exhibition is called: A Sunny Day in Venice.

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